I graduated! Finished. Completed. Done. I began seminary over 3 years ago desiring to grow in my knowledge of God and theology, as well as my knowledge and understanding of leadership. I was led to Bethel Seminary in the Twin Cities area to study their Transformational Leadership program which focused on both Biblical theology as well Biblical leadership, and the merging between both. After three long years of full time school coupled with full time work alongside it, I graduated in May 2013. It was an incredible journey to be able to pour myself into graduate school and allow my professors, classmates and reading to pour into me. Now being done, I’ve had some time this past summer to really reflect on my time in seminary.
Seminary was some of the most fulfilling times in my life. I was able to spend time studying Scripture to focus in on a number of different areas, and see what God, through the original authors, is desiring for His people. Having the ability to grow in my knowledge and understanding of theology has led me into deeper worship with the One who created me, but has also allowed me to enter into deeper conversations with friends, both Christians and non-Christians. Having to spend the time reading thousands of pages of books and writing/researching hundreds of pages of papers has giving me the opportunity to know God more in my life and has already allowed me to help others know Him more. I had a professor who told us once that if in our seminary journeys we did not come out looking more like Christ our time in seminary was a waste. As I have pursued God fully through seminary, I feel like I’ve grown immensely in my pursuit of Christ and to become more like Him.
Having the opportunity to grow in seminary also came with great challenges and areas that stretched me. First, seminary stretched me in what I already understood about God (or thought I understood) and to look through a different lens in many areas. We all come to the table with different presuppositions or beliefs/understandings of God because of different factors in our lives (family, friends, church/denomination, surrounding city/culture, etc). Seminary allowed me the chance to stretch out of my comfort zone and to observe and interpret Scripture in ways that my presuppositions had clouded before in order to better apply Scripture to my life and ministry. Second, seminary stretched me in my marriage. Pursuing full time school and full time work meant that for the past three years, 70-80 hours each week (sometimes more) were earmarked. Seminary stretched me to be intentional in my time with my wife. Often when we hear stretching in a marriage we immediately jump to negative, but this is not the case. My wife and I have grown over the past three years in our marriage because of the stretching of time and the sacrifices we’ve had to make while we were in school (she just graduated with a MA in Curriculum Instruction in May too). It just meant we had to be intentional about our weekly date night, when we had free moments we spent them together and often when we both had studying we would do it together in the same room just to be with each other. Seminary stretched my marriage, but had I not had it there I believe I could have fallen into a pattern that I see often in marriages of just becoming complacent or lazy with one another and not intentional. Seminary made us put patterns into our marriage that allowed us to be intention and pursue one another daily.
Throughout the three years of seminary I was challenged and stretched time after time but through all the work and stress that came with deadlines I continued over and over again to be affirmed that I was in seminary to be trained up to lead in the church. This affirmation came from professors, classmates, friends and peers in ministry who walked alongside of me in my training. I felt called almost four years ago to pursue seminary in order to grow in my knowledge of theology and understanding of leadership in order to be better equipped to be a pastor in a church, and I feel confident that my training and studies have prepared me for the next step in my journey. I realize through seminary how insufficient I am to be a pastor, and how I absolutely need God to guide me and not lean on my own abilities and my own skills. I am thankful for those that have walked alongside of me and helped to build me up over these past few years. I am eager to take the knowledge and the experiences that have been impressed upon me and put them into practice. I’m also excited to continue to grow through the ministries I’ll be in and to continue to grow through books and any other areas of teaching/learning I am able to receive.